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Monday Morning Quarterback Review

After having been forced to field a weakened side, by Team Wales selection interference, which fell to an inevitable heavy away loss to Ulster, the Ospreys were able to field a stronger match day squad for the visit of the URC champion Stormers.

The first twenty minutes saw the Stormers put the home side in a territorial stranglehold, but despite them dominating the game, the Ospreys defence and set piece held up strongly, and they could only manage three points from a highly questionable penalty given against an advancing scrum.

As the half wore on, the Ospreys began to grow into the game and the Stormers were pinned deep in their 22 by a series of great drives. Then inexplicably the home side lost patience and Morgan Morris threw out a loose pass, when a few more close drives would have resulted in an inevitable try. Even worse was that from this huge error the Stormers broke away earning another three-point penalty, after a blatant forward pass was missed by an officiating team that all night seemed a little unsure of themselves. A penalty by Myler from a powerful scrum pegged the lead back to 6-3 and as half time approached the Ospreys produced one superb set piece move that almost put George North through, and eventually saw Keelan Giles narrowly fail to get over in the other corner. Ethan Roots having one of his best games and Jac Morgan had in the latter part of the half been leading some serious counter rucking intent and technique from the forwards and at the half the momentum seemed to be starting to turn towards the home side

The initial stages of the second half saw the weather closing in, and it looked as if the game would become an arm wrestle, and with the set piece looking so strong the home side were looking the better of the two sets of forwards. Sadly, one second of missed concentration, when, what appeared a reckless and unnecessary blitz from number eight Morris, created a massive dogleg that the pacey Stormers were always going to be too good to miss out on, and their excellent scrum half was in for a converted try. Although the Ospreys hit back with a penalty from the ever-reliable Myler, the advantage was lost by an unforced kick off exit error that surrendered the advantage, and it started to look as if the best the home side could expect from the game was a losing bonus point. But one thing that should have learned about this side is they will not quit, and they summoned on last effort, producing two consecutive aggressive driving mauls which overpowered the Stormers, and produced a try in the corner, leaving Myler with an exceedingly difficult conversion, which he slotted over with his usual consummate ease.

Despite there only being three minutes on the clock, the Stormers showed what an accomplished outfit they are by getting in position for a match winning drop goal attempt, which surprisingly they did not convert. A long 22 drop out from Myler allowed the Ospreys to pin the Stormers back into their half and Rhys Henry latched on to a turnover that gave the home side a final chance to claim the win. Despite coming close to a game winning penalty, an inexperienced referee was always looking too worried about giving a game winning decision, and the match ended in a bit of a mini farce when neither side knew if he had ended the game or not.

Whilst not winning home games is never something to be happy about, Toby Booth can take some satisfaction from the way his side went toe to toe with a top-class URC outfit. Although the conditions were massively in the home side's favour, the weak officiating of the scrum was most certainly not. The lesson this team must learn is that at this level mistakes are punished. An almost inevitable first half try was not converted through losing patience with the close driving game, and the defence just made one individual second half defensive mistake and it was brutally punished with seven points.

Top level rugby is a cruel game and the margin between success and failure can be wafer thin. The effort and organisation shown Friday night was, however, a clear step in the right direction.

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